THE REFORMED PASTOR
by Richard Baxter
CHAPTER 3 [contd]
OBJECTIONS TO THIS DUTY
[b]OBJECTION 3[/b]: This course will take up so much time, that a man will have no opportunity to follow his studies. Most of us are young and inexperienced, and have need of much time to improve our own abilities, and to increase our own knowledge, which this course will entirely prevent.
[b](1):[/b] We suppose those whom we persuade to this work, to understand the substance of the Christian religion, and to be able to teach it to others; and the addition of lower and less necessary things, is not to be preferred before this needful communication of the fundamental principles of religion. I highly value common knowledge, and would not encourage any to set light by it; but I value the saving of souls more. That work which is our great end must be done, whatever be left undone. It is a very desirable thing for a physician to be thoroughly studied in his art; and to be able to see the reason of his practice, and to resolve such difficult controversies as are before him. But if he had the charge of a hospital, or lived in a city where the pestilence was raging, if he would be studying fermentation, the circulation of the blood, blisters, and the like, and such like excellent points, when he should be visiting his patients, and saving mens lives; if he should even turn them away, and let them perish, and tell them that he has not time to give them advice, because he must follow his own studies, I would consider that man as a most preposterous student, who preferred the remote means before the end itself of his studies: indeed, I would think him but a civil kind of murderer. Mens souls may be saved without knowing whether God did predetermine the creature in all its acts; whether the understanding necessarily determines the will; whether God works grace in a physical or in a moral way of causation; what freewill is; whether God have scientiam mediam, ('mediate knowledge': is a term used by Molina, a Jesuit theologian, to harmonize 'free-will' and Divine foreknowledge) or positive decrees concerning the blame for evil deeds; and a hundred similar questions, which are probably the things you would be studying when you should be saving souls. Get well to heaven, and help your people thither, and you shall know all these things in a moment, and a thousand more, which now, by all your studies, you can never know; and is not this the most expeditious and certain way to knowledge
[b](2)[/b] If you grow not extensively in knowledge, you will by this way of diligent practice obtain the intensive more excellent growth. If you know not so many things as others, you will know the great things better than they; for this serious dealing with sinners for their salvation, will help you to far deeper apprehensions of the saving principles of religion than you will get by any other means; and a little more knowledge of these is worth all the other knowledge in the world. Oh, when I am looking heavenward, and gazing towards the inaccessible light, and aspiring after the knowledge of God, and find my soul so dark and distant, that I am ready to say, I know not God he is above me quite out of my reach, methinks I could willingly exchange all the other knowledge I have, for one glimpse more of the knowledge of God and of the life to come. Oh that I had never known a word in logic or metaphysics, nor known whatever schoolmen said, so I had but one spark more of that light which would show me the things that I must shortly see. For my part, I conceive, that by serious talking of everlasting things, and teaching the creed, or some short catechism, you may grow more in knowledge, (though not in the knowledge of more things,) and prove much wiser men, than if you spent that time in studying common or curious, yet less necessary things.
And perhaps it will be found, before we have done, that this employment tends to make men much abler pastors for the Church, than private studies alone. He will be the ablest physician, lawyer, and divine too, that addeth practice and experience to his studies: while that man shall prove a useless drone, that refuseth Gods service all his life, under pretense of preparing for it, and lets mens souls pass on to perdition, while he pretendeth to be studying how to recover them, or to get more ability to help and save them.
[b](3)[/b] Yet let me add, that though I count this the chief, I would have you to have more, because these subservient sciences are very useful; and, therefore, I say, that you may have competent time for both, lose no time upon vain recreations and employments; consume it not in needless sleep; trifle not away a minute. Do what you do with all your might; and then see whether you have not competent time for these other pursuits. If you set apart but two days in a week to this great work, you may find some time for common studies out of the other four.
Indeed, are not four days in the week, (after so many years spent in the university,) a fair proportion for men to study controversies and sermons? Though my weakness deprive me of abundance of time, and extraordinary works take up six, if not eight parts of my time, yet I bless God I can find time to provide for preaching two days a week, notwithstanding the two days for personal instruction. Now, for those that are not troubled with any extraordinary work, (I mean writings, and vocations of several sorts, besides the ordinary work of the ministry,) I cannot believe, but, if they are willing, they may find two half days a week at least for this work.